A month into The High Republic publishing initiative has passed with the release of one adult novel, a YA novel, a middle-grade, and two comic issues. The investment that Lucasfilm Press, their publishing partners, and the authors have put into The High Republic so far has paid off with great success. Light of the Jedi, A Test of Courage, and Into the Dark have all debuted either #1 or #2 on the NYT Bestsellers in their respective reading levels. Marvel’s The High Republic #1 sales were 200k in the first week and will go into its’ 4th printing, a massive accomplishment for a Marvel comic in general. Overall, a very successful publishing initiative launch that can lead to so many creative opportunities for the Star Wars franchise moving forward. Also, by pushing comics and graphic novels as a part of The High Republic, this covers all bases of Star Wars fans who do read (and yes comic and graphic novel readers ARE readers).
And just like the films and Disney Plus shows, there are plenty of threads that have started from The High Republic content ripe for theories of what might befall our Jedi down the line. Of course, given that this takes place in the past, we know part of what comes at the end of it all (the Nihil and Drengir are not threats by the time we hit the Prequel era); however, the Jedi Order in the Prequel era went through a transformation and became more stringent because of the events that happen during this era. Having read most of the major content releases of The High Republic, here are some of the themes that have been presented and will likely play a big part moving forwards as well as theories of where certain characters and plot points might explore.
NOTE: I might use the phrase “Imperial” or “Imperial expansion” when talking about the Republic in The High Republic era. That may sound weird to reference them as Imperial but, from an academic perspective, that is what we are dealing with here. They are a governing entity that is expanding to the Outer Rim and other parts of the Galactic Frontier with Republic forces and a ton of Jedi that fight to maintain peace (which the statement in itself sounds crazy but has been used in our real world). They are not only spreading but also enforcing their beliefs on worlds where, even though the governing bodies might be on board, everyday people likely have different opinions.
Optimistic Unity vs Nihilistic Individualism
The overall fight for the soul of the galaxy is represented by two entities (the Republic and the Nihil) and the awareness in Light of the Jedi of how fragile they are from their leaders on both sides (at least at the beginning of the novel) is poignant. Lina Soh reflects on it through the importance of the Starlight Beacon, which she views as her legacy in shaping the galaxy with a united front of like-minded planets and people working together. The idea that if the Outer Rim and planets in the frontier just see the opportunities that joining the Republic would bring, everyone would be on board. It reminds me of how many Americans idolize the 1960s as ideal and the height of American Exceptionalism while ignoring many racial, gender, and economic disparities. The High Republic era is not working for everyone and the expansion of the Republic is not seen as welcoming to everyone, not just the Nihil. To many in the Outer Rim/Galactic Frontier, the High Republic represents a pompous and out-of-touch wealth that is unreachable for billions.
Not that there aren’t contradictions on the other side as well. The Nihil don’t want the Republic or Jedi ending their reign of the Outer Rim. Kasav views the Nihil as organized chaos and that, even though they present themselves as doing whatever they want, there is a chain of command and structure. Marchion Ro doesn’t agree with how things are run within the Nihil when we first meet him and, by the time he gets rid of Kasav and manipulates Lourna Dee into kidnapping a Jedi, it’s clear that he sees the Nihil as an endgame for his personal plans. It is the same side of the coin with the dark side: tapping into a place of fear and want in people to manipulate with the promise of power.
The Republic meanwhile relies on “We are all the Republic” to motivate side characters like Joss and Pikka Aldren and Captain Finial Bright from Light of the Jedi who sacrifices himself mid-speaking the statement. There is something creepy about the constant repetition of this phrase and I wonder if that was the authors’ intent or just a catchy phrase to potentially replicate on merchandise. The Jedi have their own similar saying: “For Light and Life” which is used as both an endpoint in a speech and a battle cry. Still, I couldn’t help but think of people like Heinz Kruger from Captain America: The First Avenger who pops a cyanide pill instead of being captured alive while defiantly saying “Hail Hydra.” It’s not honorable, it’s just sad. I know the sentiment is probably meant to be more like being a citizen of the world and loving and caring for everyone and the environment we live in but it comes off more like Hydra.
Multiple Jedi will Fall to the Dark Side
We have already seen this in A Test of Courage when Imri briefly succumbs to the dark side after suppressing his anger over losing his Master and increasing jealousy over Vernestra’s abilities as the youngest Jedi Knight. They fight it out and he comes back from it (and becomes her Padawan) but will that be the case for other Jedi tempted by the dark side. Master Sskeer has already dipped into dark territory by brutally killing a Nihil attacker on a raided ship that he, Keeve, and Jedi twins Terec and Ceret are investigating. The combination of losing a fellow Jedi Master, Jora Malli, and his arm has affected him greatly and he has chosen to close himself off to his former Padawan and Master Kriss.
At the end of Light of the Jedi, Elzar Mann has a vision of the future that frightens him and will be a part of his journey. His close relationship with Avar Kriss (it is implied that they once had a romantic relationship) could lead him to explore the dark side the same way Anakin did to save Padme. Mann was already established as experimenting with Jedi techniques and powers so he could come out of this a very formidable Sith Lord. But that also might be too similar to Anakin Skywalker’s journey; although the Star Wars franchise certainly doesn’t shy away from rehashing plot points.
And there is Loden Greatstorm, who is currently being held prisoner by Marchion Ro. While he might seem like the least likely to turn dark, he is in the hands of someone who knows how to unnerve Jedi (by causing the prisoners surrounding Greatstorm pain so that is all he feels). He did also lose his composure and shove Marchion Ro with the Force in anger so who knows what state of mind he’ll be in if his Padawan, Bell Zettifor, can rescue him.
My entry point into Star Wars was the now Legends Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights series which followed Jaina and Jacen Solo in their Jedi Academy training. Though the twins had been in previous Star Wars novels, this was their YA series and I was the right age to get hooked. I stayed with them into adulthood and had to read Jacen Solo’s transformation from a sweet boy who loved nature, to a heartless Sith Lord who killed some fan-favorite Legends characters. Star Wars canon has never really given that type of experience to fans in any form. When the Prequels were released, people knew that little Anakin was going to fall to the dark side and become Darth Vader (that inevitability was used in marketing during all three films). And Ben Solo (Jacen’s canon counterpart) is already Kylo Ren when the Sequel Trilogy starts.
Of course, newcomers could start watching Star Wars with Episodes I and II, then The Clone Wars film and series and finishing off with Episode III to get that experience with Anakin Skywalker. And I am sure there will be more and more of those people who don’t know who Anakin Skywalker becomes and will be genuinely surprised. I would love to have that experience for a canon character and some of the characters I mentioned, and ones we haven’t even met yet, could be starting down this path. I just hope it is compelling and I hope it breaks all our hearts.
Unforeseen Consequences of Expansion
As with any Imperial expansion, the Imperialists tend to affect the environment they interact with for the worst. An earlier indicator of some problems that might arise on a grander scale comes first in The High Republic # 1 when it is discovered that the Starlight Beacon’s signal is disrupting the migration patterns of a herd of space insects.
And now the Jedi have to deal with the Drengir, who were awakened/released unknowingly by Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus and Jedi Orla Jareni when they removed ancient idols that they thought were filled with dark side energy. However, it turned out that they were put in place by the Sith to keep the real source of the dark side energy in check…the Drengir. A mass of sentient, carnivorous plants that want nothing more than to conquer and feast, which is very on par with the Nihil, who were pitted against the Drengir so that Cohmac, Orla, Reath Silas, and crew could escape the troubled space station in Into the Dark. They also make an appearance at the end of The High Republic #2 and can influence the Jedi in some way, including presenting a vision to Jedi Ceret of a Rhodian to lure him into a trap and manipulating Jedi Dez Rydan into fighting Reath Silas.
Going to War with an Enemy You Don’t Completely Understand
This is true in many aspects of our world in every pocket of history. We have a tendency more than occasionally to react after an unexpected attack, not with strategic insight, but with brute force and feelings. As a result, you can end up playing catch up to an enemy that knows your next ten moves, because they prepared for them.
Such is the case watching the Republic and the Jedi play catch up to the Nihil, or rather, to Marchion Ro. Because even the Nihil don’t understand what organization they are truly in, what purpose they truly serve. To a certain degree, we the readers, understand more than the Jedi. We know that Marchion knows (via a possible Force-sensitive member of the San Tekka clan) how to cut through space with uncharted hyperspace lanes and could even appear above the Coruscant Senate. We know that Marchion and his family have some sort of history with the Jedi and/or Republic and he knows how to neutralize Jedi quite effectively. We also know that he wants to use Loden Greatstorm for something and so is keeping him alive. Then there is also the problem of the Nihil spy planted within Chancellor Soh’s inner circle that the Jedi have not sensed. That will be a problem that needs to be fixed quickly.
What we don’t know is Ro’s species. It is implied that he is a rare and ancient species which might explain his ties to the Jedi. Could he also possibly be connected to the Sith? The upcoming Disney Plus show The Acolyte is supposed to take place at the end of The High Republic era. The Acolytes in canon were a group of dark side followers. During the Galactic Civil War, they were called Acolytes of the Beyond. Perhaps Marchion Ro and his purple orb factor into that thread. Whatever the answers for Ro’s motivations are, I’m guessing the pieces will be put into place slowly throughout many novels.
What Will Be the Cost of Defeating These Dark and Dangerous Enemies?
There are always casualties of war and, for our heroes of the High Republic, the cost has already been astronomical: billions of lives, including many Jedi, and the beginnings of lack of confidence in the Jedi Order. We see the effect the Drengir had on Dez. How will he be affected going forward? Are we going to see the same thing happen to Ceret?
The epilogue of A Test of Courage also suggests that some factions of the Nihil will attempt to recruit Jedi Padawans which would force the Jedi Order to have to battle their students. Already, Jedi Masters like Cohmac are questioning the tactics and practices of the Jedi Order and there are Jedi, like Orla, who have decided to operate independently of the Order as Wayseekers. There are so many uncertainties that have arisen and presented themselves to the Jedi who currently have very few answers, even with the Force guiding them. And the war is just getting started.